Local School Super Says No Plans to Build on "Slave Cemetery"

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new West Gadsden High School was supposed to happen in the first part of June. Now, talks of a possible cemetery on the proposed building site have things a bit delayed.

Reginald James, Superintendent of Gadsden County Schools, says, "A few weeks ago a man came up to my office and said he needed to talk to me about something. At that point he said the property the board had purchased seemed to have some graves on it."

The property is the old Thomas Smith farm off of County Road 270 in the Flat Creek community, and at this point the part about it being a slave cemetery is rumored among those who live near here.

Billy Perkins, who has lived near the farm close to 70 years, says he does remember seeing a cemetery as a child, but not a slave cemetery.

Billy says, "There used to be four graves that were fenced in with an iron fence. Those graves have been done away with now."

Superintendent James says investigations are underway to see who is buried at the site. He says if necessary, he will have the bodies exhumed and placed on another site.

Reginald says, "We want the public to know that we're not going to build a school on top of any graves, and we are going to respect the rights of the deceased."

James says another option, if bodies are found, would be to choose one of the other sites voted on by a citizens' committee before he took office.

Sam Hawkins, President of Gadsden County's NAACP chapter, says he is prepared to take legal action against the board if plans to build on the site continue. That is, if it's proven the site is a former cemetery.